EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 4:19 pm, 18th December 2018

This country is facing a grave political crisis the like of which we have not seen for more than a generation. The undeniable truth is that this is something that the Government have created for themselves. From the word go, they have chosen not to reach out across a divided country to try to build a political consensus on the question of our relationship with the European mainland. They have instead looked inward to the party of government, trying to patch over divisions within the Conservative party.

At least this latest insult by the Executive to the legislature in interrupting our debate on their proposals and denying us a vote on them this year is consistent. The Government have not suspended the process to fundamentally rethink their proposals and to listen to the concerns across this House. Oh, no—they are doing so only with a very narrow agenda, which is to placate the extreme right wing of their own party on its concerns about the Northern Ireland backstop. I have to say that the Northern Ireland backstop is, perhaps, the least offensive of the proposals before the House. Of far greater concern is the fact that, by the Government’s own admission, they will impoverish the people whom we represent and deny people the ability to come and live and work in my country, which threatens its future prosperity.

In fact, the most offensive feature of the backstop is that it serves to underscore the duplicity of the Westminster Government when it comes to dealing with representations from Scotland. The national Parliament in Scotland has argued precisely for differential arrangements post Brexit and been told consistently for the past two years that they would be impossible because they would compromise the integrity of the United Kingdom, only to find them written down in this withdrawal agreement with regard to Northern Ireland. That is an insult, and it is contempt for the people of Scotland.

Let me turn to this question of the second referendum. I want to caution some colleagues who are against the notion about the language that they are using in this debate. It is a fantasy and a fiction to try to claim that, somehow, allowing all the people of this country to vote in a referendum is anti-democratic.